As a sophomore in high school still unsure of what career path to pursue, Ana Giddings made the decision to enroll in the Georgia Consortium for Advanced Technical Training (GA CATT) Program. That was three years ago. Today, she is recognized as the first ever African American female to graduate from the program and receive certification from the Association of German Chambers of Commerce (DIHK) in the field of Production Engineering, a title that was not handed to her, but rather one she earned through her extreme hard-work and determination.
Ana is from Griffin, GA and attended Griffin High School for two years. She spent the remainder of her high school career at the Griffin College and Career Academy, while simultaneously being enrolled at Southern Crescent Technical College. On top of being a full-time student, Ana spent two days out of the week at Norcom’s manufacturing facility. Headquartered in Ana’s hometown, Norcom specializes in the production of school and office products; it was the perfect location for a three-year apprenticeship and facilitated her first true exposure to a career in manufacturing. The GACC South invited Ana to participate in an interview to discuss her experience in the GA CATT program and the opportunities she has been afforded since graduating. On her first day of training, Ana was assigned a mentor at her employing company. GA CATT Mentors possess the technical expertise and wisdom to teach practical skills to apprentices, but they are also individuals with the ability to encourage and motivate the next generation of workers. For Ana, this figure was Fritz Pfaffle, who works as a Plant Engineer at Norcom Inc. Ana described Mr. Pfaffle as “disciplined and focused” and applauded his ability to teach her “how to be creative yet have precision in my completed work.” She accredits a large portion of her success in the program to his guidance and constant words of encouragement. “I feel the reason I was successful in passing my exams and earning my certification is because of what everyone, especially my mentor, saw in me. He celebrated my achievements and helped me overcome the challenges I faced; he was there every step of the way.”
“My life and career goals have completely shifted since completing my apprenticeship. Earning my DIHK certification was just the beginning; it has enabled me to explore a variety of career options in different fields of engineering. I will carry the experiential knowledge I gained as a GA CATT apprentice with me for the remainder of my career, and I feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to show others how awesome this program is.”
Apprenticeships are not always regarded as a viable career option for students in the U.S., but stories like Ana’s validate the effectiveness of workforce
development programs and demonstrate to students that opportunities outside of attending a 4-year college do indeed exist. When asked if she ever regretted her decision to pursue a less traditional career route, she responded: “I believe I have had the chance to receive more opportunities than most of my peers. I received an Associate’s degree and three years of work experience all while still being enrolled in high school.” Ana wrapped up her interview with a closing statement: “I would recommend this program to people who are open to new ideas and enjoy creative, hands-on projects. It takes a lot of hard-work and dedication to finish strong, but this is an excellent opportunity for all students willing to put in the effort. To students currently deciding what career path to pursue, please consider this program – it is worth it.”
Read more about Ana here.